Developing Leadership for Public Good

Leadership is one of the most obvious and consistent themes of business and life. It cannot be avoided no more than breathing. Why is that? Because in industry and typically every arena of Human endeavor, there will always be frontrunners. These are those companies, brands and individuals that truly stand out.

However, while leadership continues to be a mainstay, how that leadership is defined, often varies from culture to culture and civilization to civilization. What cannot, however, be disputed is followership. It can be argued that leadership is different from management in that people truly follow leadership because of its attractive quality, while management in some cases is forcibly imposed.

A popular theme in American leadership pedagogy has been “servant leadership,” the concept that the leader serves the follower. It was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 Essay, “The Servant as a Leader.” And while this is a popular modern theory; in the halls of business, industry and even medicine this is rarely the case. The phenomena can be most reasonably explained by the fact that it is an adopted cultural value with a shallow penetration rate. Most Western governments have always run on the “strongest rule,” which can be reasonably extrapolated to “democratic values” by the concept of majority rule within its framework. The majority then, constitutes the strongest. This is not to be confused with Utilitarianism; as it is not rules-based and not with the goal of producing the most hapiness or widest benefit. It is the will of the strongest, for the benefit of the strongest, much as outlined in Darwin’s savage theory on humankind. , A “survival of the fittest,” world where the weak are disposed of or robbed by the strong had telling relevance. And while nature has proven this theory is not accurate; it does depict a world-view on leadership.

This form of leadership sits in contrast to Asian and Eastern themed leadership which revolves more closely around group leadership and African leadership which historically centers around a representative council of leaders. There are notable differences between each civilization’s leadership concept. Even Native American concepts of leadership and growth have yet to be fully extrapolated in their capacity to balance society and respect the environment.

As we look at the maturation of leadership and it’s models over the years, it become imperative to understand the differences, and recognize when leadership models converge and how that translates into cooperation in application. For the past few centuries the world has run on a leadership model developed by Western ideas of power and control. However, as the world has matured we are then able to see with grater clarity the distinctions and benefits of other leadership models and their overall benefit–and make educated choices about that which we prefer. Many learning that it is OK to choose your own leadership model now.

The Colonial period through imperialism to the present exhibited an obsession with expansion, which limited the overall conversation regarding the variety of leadership models available. The conversation was dominated with practitioners who were learning about ancient histories and cultures as they went along discovering the ancient world. It seems they did not have the benefit or perhaps the capacity for self reflection regarding their own leadership style. Often they rushed to coin new terms and names for concepts and countries that were almost as ancient as the earth itself.

Technology, recovered scholarship, research, better Emotional Quotient (EQ) and enhanced communications are giving us a better understanding of diverse leadership models. For example, we can see in comparison the weaknesses of certain leadership models. And we can ask the brave questions about which model yields the best results for long-term sustainability.

Some leadership models are heavy-handed and have had mixed results. While the model allows for rapid land conquests, it proves generally unstable and fraught with disruption, war and power-struggles. It is maintained through constant punitive contols in business and constant war in world settings. It has been the current world model, but Post-Covid, there is a growing shift as many seek the models that best fit their populations, businesses and endeavors.

Perhaps now the world, leadership practitioners and students everywhere better are prepared for a more realistic conversation about the true outcomes of various leadership models and how best to modify them for greater good. It may even be that we must redefine our leadership paradigms by relinquishing the models we’ve come to accept as gospel.

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